Sweden/Syria: Integration Ecovillage

A Solution for Migration and Eco-livelihoods

The Syrian refugee, Fayez Karimeh, arrived last year in Europe. With the help of the GEN network he reached Sweden, where he now plans to build an ecovillage for migrants and refugees (we reported about him here: http://gen.ecovillage.org/en/node/5825 . Due to visa issues he could not attend the GEN summit in person, but was connected with the emerGENcies strand via Skype. Allan Stewart, Treasurer of the new-found association SICE, reports.

In the last months around Fayez, a team of engineers, students and philanthropists from multiple nationalities have come together to build ecovillages as a solution to migration issues. This is intended not only to create ecologically sustainable livelihoods, but to give opportunities for refugees to integrate into their host countries. The Syrian Initiative Craftsmanship Ecovillage (SICE), formed as an NGO in Uppsala, Sweden, on April 1st. Looking for their first pilot site near Uppsala, SICE wants to build several ecovillages in Sweden and internationally.

The project concept was initiated a couple of months earlier by environmental engineer Fayez Karimeh during his stay at the Tamera peace school ecovillage in Portugal. After witnessing immense atrocities in his home town, Fayez left Syria in February 2014. On his long journey to Sweden, he spent a month in an ecovillage in Turkey, followed by 6 months in Tamera community, with which he had collaborated before the war.
Having worked his entire life on environmental issues around Asia, and having created an oasis in the Syrian desert, Fayez finally arrived in Sweden this winter with a greater purpose. He believes that ecovillages are a solution for refugees and all displaced people worldwide. “The people of my region have lived in natural ecovillages for thousands of years” Fayez exclaims.

The idea is to create easy work opportunities for people who are having difficulties integrating into Swedish society, especially those seeking asylum. Combining this with a truly local and resilient infrastructure of clay housing, permaculture, constructed wetlands, nutrient recycling toilets, micro scale biogas and renewable energy gives people a chance to reduce their expenses and avoid debts.
Fayez says “the money will come by itself” because he envisions this project as so close to many people’s hearts that it will generate the necessary interest. And it has generated quite a bit of interest already at this early stage. The project has featured in two Swedish newspapers and the SICE board have met with several municipalities and organisations who have expressed interest. Having already given a presentation at Uppsala university, Fayez has been nominated to come back to the university’s TEDx talk in the fall.

The SICE team has already presented their project at the Nordic Permaculture Festival in Sweden in August, and plans to hold its very own conference in the Autumn.
The SICE team says they want to get as many people from as many different backgrounds as possible involved. This makes them very open to suggestions and offer opportunities for anyone to initiate a project that could be a component of this integration ecovillage model. Some of the ideas they have are to create a craftsmanship workshop, host training programmes for immigrants and for Swedes, have an eco-hostel, offer internship and research opportunities to students, scrap metal social enterprise, a clay building company, wild food & farming produce, and to create a collaborative platform with relevant projects in Sweden.

Since Fayez arrived in Europe, he was guided to many people and initiatives to elaborate on his idea and vision. This is how he and the SICE team describe the vision:

We at SICE envisage the development of the Ecovillage to go hand in hand with that of multiple enterprises to better sustain its member’s livelihoods and connect them to the outside world. This in turn offers a constant interaction between people on site and between the village and greater society.

A rough plan:

– Land. We currently have our eyes on some opportune locations where we may rent or purchase land, depending on what best suits the long term growth of the ecovillage. If we receive enough funding and purchase land, members of the NGO have the legal right to prevent any corrupt decisions from taking place. If we rent, we will go to Svenska Kyrkan, the Kommun or another stable landowner who will agree to a long term contract.

– Building & Design. With our Architect, Mohamed, Engineer, Fayez, and a network of experienced enthusiasts in Sweden, we will design a smart, cheap, comfortable and energy efficient series of houses from locally sourced and recycled materials. The current group of 25 Syrian members as well as the many Swedish and international people who have expressed interest, will build the houses for free because they either will possess the time or money to do so, and because they will have the incentive of living cheaply in a sustainable and ecologically sound village.

– Planning Permission. There are a number of ways we believe that we can receive planning permission.

– Funding.

– Enterprise.

– Circular Economy & Ecological Planning.

– Food & Energy Provision

– Democracy: sharing & respect for individual choice.

Find out more http://www.ecovillage.nu

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